Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash wants review of Longboat Key beach project

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 10, 2013 

MANATEE -- Arguing an erosion control project might harm a popular beach hangout, former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash is seeking an administrative review.

McClash said citizens have not been properly notified of plans to install erosion control structures at the north end of Longboat Key.

"The overriding issue is also the lack of public notice on projects that impact property the public currently uses for recreation," he said.

McClash, who served on the county commission 22 years before his defeat last year, contends the Longboat Key proposal "would reduce the recreational areas currently enjoyed by thousands of people a year."

McClash referred to an area called Beer Can Island, which is popular with boaters and beachgoers. The problem is Beer Can Island is washing away, according to Dave Bullock, Longboat Key town manager.

The town applied for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to install two adjustable structures known as groins, which are designed to stabilize sand. Longboat Key also applied for permission to build a jetty, but that would only be done as a last resort, he said.

"We don't want to build the third one," Bullock said. "We want the smallest ecological footprint possible."

As for the groins: "The engineers looked at it, reviewed it, and what we want to do is try to stabilize the beach north of North Shore Road, and all through the mangrove area, which is washing away," said Bullock. "It would look like two small fishing piers."

"The idea is to try to hold the sand between them," he said. "They tend to accumulate sand between them."

The town's coastal management efforts are also designed to protect residences endangered by beach erosion, Bullock said, but with a caveat.

"I have written that the town cannot assure protection," he said.

Longboat Key taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the $10 million project, said Bullock.

Bullock noted voters OK'd town plans during a 2010 referendum on beach renourishment in response to McClash's assertion citizens haven't been properly informed.

McClash formally filed a petition last Friday seeking an administrative hearing after he was notified state officials intend to grant the town's permit.

"The administrative law judge uses facts to determine whether the permit should be granted as the state intended, or modify the conditions, or deny the permit," said McClash.

"Then it goes back to DEP, and the director has the final order they issue, saying they'll either do what the administrative judge recommends, or do something different," McClash said.

DEP's general counsel is reviewing it, said agency spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller.

McClash also wants an environmental impact statement, but it is up to federal regulators to decide whether that's necessary, Miller said.

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